The smiley, the veil and the urban legend

There is a well known story about Dutch Moroccan girls being punished for not wearing a veil by having a "smiley" cut on their faces. I have seen this story in various blogs, and making a quick search on the internet, I found this:

As the saying goes, the foolish innocent girl caught exposed is offered a choice, gang rape or a smiley. It is supposed to be a well known punishment doing its rounds across cultures.

"The German journalist Udo Ulfkotte told in a recent interview that in Holland, you can now see examples of young, unveiled Moroccan women with a so-called "smiley". It means that the girl gets one side of her face cut up from mouth to ear, serving as a warning to other Muslim girls who should refuse to wear the veil. In the Muslim suburb of Courneuve, France, 77 per cent of the veiled women carry veils reportedly because of fear of being harassed or molested by Islamic moral patrols."

This piece brings two completely different stories and places them together. One is about the "smiley gang", and one is about women wearing veils in order to prevent molestation. There is quite a big difference between the two. One is based on general knowledge, the other on a supposed poll.

I have read the story about the smiley in many places, and I supposed it therefore must be true. But recently I began realizing that though I have heard of Moroccan girls walking about the Netherlands with such a smiley, I have never seen an interview with one, or read about a specific victim, or even read about it in news reports.

I began researching into it, and as it turned out, I discovered that Peter Burger, a researcher into urban legends, had already done most of the researching for me.

The "smiley" story first appeared in England, apparently already in the 1950s, where it involved gang warfare. There is it called the Glasgow or Chelsea Smile (see Wikipedia). Somewhere in the 1990s the story got to France where it received the group rape option and was attributed to Algerians. From there it moved into Belgium and crossed the French/Dutch language divide.

In 2003 it reached the Netherlands, causing a wave of panic. News of girls disfigured after being given the "rape or smile" option appeared in the news and an frightening email warning about the gang made the rounds. It apparently appeared first in Leiden, where students were warned of a roving band of rapists. There the culprits belonged to one of the Dutch immigrant groups - Surinamese, Antillian or Moroccan.

The story appeared in other places in southern Netherlands, making its way north. Somewhere along the line it got the "moral patrol" flavor to it and centered on Moroccan gangs and Moroccan victims.

The Dutch newspaper Volkskrant reported that the story got police extremely busy all over the Netherlands, trying to track down the gang, or a victim for that matter. Police departments all over the country got to the conclusion that it was just a rumor and started an investigation into who started it. That investigation was closed with no results.

In 2004 it appeared again in Belgium. In that year there were riots in Antwerp. Flemings warned each other about a Moroccan gang and Moroccan women spread the story about a group of violent Flemings.

Like other urban legeneds this story spread by people who "knew" the victims, usually a friend or a friend, or a friend of a neighbor, or a neighbor of an uncle. These people are known by the collective term "Foaf" ("friend of a friend"). However, the police and hospital services are not aware of even one victim.

Are there really girls who are harassed for not putting on a veil? Probably. Are there girls walking around the Netherlands wearing a "smiley"? I have yet to see the story of one.

- Appearance in Leiden (Dutch)
- From FOAFtale to media legend: the case of the Smiley Gang (English)
- Ethnic conflict hoaxes in Dutch news media (English)


Anonymous said...

I did actually see one. That was in Switzerland, and she was not Maroccan.

Esther said...

Hey freespeech,

Can you tell me the story behind it?

Captain USpace said...

absurd thought -
God of the Universe thinks
up ways to keep women down

absurd thought -
God of the Universe cares
what women wear...

Anonymous said...

i am a radical muslim please read my blog read how islam will win the
clash of civilization.

Anonymous said...

Not surprising that this story is credible. Women in muslim countries have had acid thrown in their face for not wearing the veil.

Briana the Magnifi-can't said...

Anonymous radical Muzzie's page is badly written. It's also a page of hate-mongering, and makes assumptions that all Westerners are Christian and also that all Christians dress the same!

Anonymous said...

where the heck did u get this crap from? this is so not true! Muslim girls are not oppressed by other Muslims!!! islam does go by force people!!! muslim girls have a choice whether they want to wear the scraf or not.

Aella said...

Chibing or stripping,disfiguring an enemys face with a cut, is an old British custome. In the 50`s it was so common that journalists somtimes refered to gang members as"Gentlemen of the chin".I remember a friend of mine receiving one in an what was ether a homophobic or racist attack 20 years ago(he was both Indian and obviously effemnate ).Anouther friend of mine got stripped during a drunken fight aboard a late night bus in the 70`s. This kined of attack is one of the reasons British gangs favour"ratchets"or "stanlys"(what Americans call box cutters)With special adaptations sometimes being made to the weapons so as to course greater disfigurment.As for the cutting of the skin between the mouth and jaw bone I believe this was a common form of punishment in medival and early modern Europe.Gangster Ron` Kray is supposed to have done it to somone who mentioned his weight problem. The "smiley gang" story may well be an urban legand but this form of mutillation is probably no myth.

Amy Alkon said...

muslim girls have a choice whether they want to wear the scraf or not.

Headscarf or death? There's a choice for ya!

Anonymous said...

"Are there really girls who are harassed for not putting on a veil? Probably."

Probably?! Probably?!
Didn't the rapists say Western women dress like whores?! Where did they learn to say that?

Anonymous said...

There is no proof the smiley is a urban legend.

qunfuz said...

I had a look at the self-proclaimed 'radical' Muslim's blog. He isn't a radical at all, just a fool. Here's my response:

Not all Christians and Jews are the same. Not every Christian culture is the same, and not every Muslim culture is the same. Your take on things is far too simplistic. I am a Muslim too, and well travelled in the Muslim world. I have found that prostitution, homosexuality and sexual abuse seem to be as prevalent in Muslim countries as they are in the West. Sadly, the harrassment of women in the street seems to be much more prevalent in the Muslim world. This seems to destroy your silly argument. Another thing: you list oral sex as a perversion, but the consensus of educated Muslim scholars is that oral sex is permitted within marriage.

Final question: why, if you are so worried by nudity, do you have so many naked women on your website? Why do you use the word 'fuck' so much?

You seem to have won yourself a big audience. Well done. But do you think you're really helping? Wouldn't it be better to master the English language and to think more deeply about the world before you start spouting? You give the rest of us a bad name.